Have you had enough of lists?

You too?

Every day lots of messages arrive… oh yes… and yet another list.

This morning I read lists about how I can live in a minimalistic way in five easy steps… and another listing the ten steps I need to take to get my administration under control and yet another one with nine tips on Linkedin marketing and another about healthy weight loss and another about interior house-decorating …


Do you also have lists hanging in your office, in front of you, behind you and next to you?

Lists for party-organizing, a list about getting healthy through exercise, a to-do list of things that need to be fixed in your home, all lists of things that are ‘good for you’…

And do you sometimes feel your courage desert you?

It sometimes seems as if your life is made up of lists. That first you have to plough through the lists and only then really start living.

That life is only ‘good’ if all the items are checked off on all the lists?

Does it sometimes feel like you’re only totally OK if everything is ‘finished’?

And it seems as if you can only really handle stress by organizing every aspect of your life through lists.

And if you feel tired or stressed, there must be another list that will provide the solution.
Making lists can often give you the feeling that you are behind … and that there’s really something wrong with you.

I don’t doubt the function of lists … lists are fun and useful … in fact they help to manage a number of things in our lives.

But the problem is sometimes we think that our life is only well managed PROVIDED that it fits in a list. That all aspects of our lives can be managed by lists. Through all those lists we often create the illusion that life is controllable and that everything will be fine as long as the lists are completed…


Do you feel all these lists are sometimes ‘too much’ and do you want to work in a different way? We shouldn’t forget that there are some things in our lives that can’t be captured by lists.


Transactional Analysis


Let’s look at these feelings of stress, of helplessness, of imperfection in making and living with all these lists.

Transactional Analysis gives us a clear framework to understand and to influence everyday life.

TA provides clear models that help us to understand seemingly complicated processes and patterns and change.

One of the key models in the Transactional Analysis is the Ego-state model. This model is about the way in which you position yourself relative to others, with respect to your own life.


  • It makes a big difference whether we view the world from a position of powerlessness and undergo the “terror lists” every day or whether we use lists confidently to shape our lives every day.
  • It makes a big difference if we assume that all is well or that we ever become more and more anxious.


We can, after all, position ourselves in many different ways. The way you think, how you feel and how you behave. The way you position yourself obviously has a big impact on your communication and your relationships. Indeed, our positioning determines how our daily life goes and what our future will look like.

There are three ways you position yourself:

Parent, the Adult and the Child.

Let’s go back to the same list phenomenon now and see it from these three positions:



Meaning: In our Child position we re-live and we repeat feelings, behaviours and thoughts that we already had as a young child. This varies from Free Child to Adapted Child to Rebel.

  1. Free child


In our Free Child state, we are spontaneous. We are aware of our needs, what is really necessary and we find it important to take care of it.

We use our feelings: scared, angry, sad and happy, as signals for these needs.


For example:

If we are happy with a list that tells us how to make chocolate cake in three steps, we jump up and we …. Oh yes … make chocolate cake.


If we don’t want chocolate cake, these 3-step list is removed and we do something else we want to do.


If we are happy with a list of how we work in Linkedin, we happily start with Linkedin. And if we are not so happy with this list, we throw away the list.


2. Adapted child:


In our Adapted Child state, we are less concerned with what we really like ourselves, or what we ourselves really need. We are more focused on what other people expect of us. Thus we go back to our childhood where we were dependent on our parents and had no choice but to try to meet the expectations of our parents.


As a child we had to these expectations. Today, as adults, we have a lot more options. If as adults today we feel powerless, the chances are that we are feeling like a helpless child, just as we used to feel as a child. We behave as if we are helpless, we feel powerless and we even think like that.


When we position ourselves like this, we do it from our Adapted Child. We consider that it’s more important to meet expectations than to feel what we really need and what we really want.


For example: We want to fulfil all the lists we come across.

We want to learn how we design our homes in three easy steps, and learn how to eat healthy food in six steps and how to move more in four steps. And we are going to adapt to all the lists and before we know it our whole life divided into lists … from morning to evening is our time categorized by lists.


And so we often lose the link to what we really want:

Time to wake up slowly, to be seen for who we are and what we do … space to be creative and spontaneous ….

Things that are not to easy to grasp in a list


 3.  Rebellious Child

From our Rebellious Child, we stick our middle finger up at everything that is expected of us and we just do the opposite. We put our foot on the brakes and do nothing. We sabotage the proper procedure and enjoy “not saying anything.”


For example: We hate lists so we ban all lists from our lives. Always and everywhere. And that’s again not the idea.


Meaning: In the Parent position we repeat what we’ve learned from our parents. We think, feel and behave the way our parents (or other significant parental-figures) behaved.


Maybe you recognize this: you hear your father’s voice in your head saying, “you have to work hard to achieve anything”. Or your mother’s voice saying, “it’s important to first consider everyone else’s needs, and only then think of yourself.” Or you remember the teacher who said “if you do something, you should do it well.” Or you heard somewhere in a movie “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” … or …

Often, we base our behaviour on values and standards that we have inherited from what we have learned.

Example: And this is also applies sometimes to how we think about lists.

Deep in our hearts we find that everything “always has to be in order” and we hope that lists can help us. We ‘list’ ourselves silly because that fits the pattern of norms and values from ‘earlier’.



Meaning: One of the basic principles of TA is that we are very able ourselves to think about our lives. We are able to see the patterns, the way we do things, to be able to understand. And we are perfectly able to think differently. To make other choices. To make new choices and find a new way to shape our lives.

And another basic principle in TA is that we are OK. We don’t need to do anything to be OK. We are all OK and to able keep that way … Even if we don’t try to make any more lists that we are trying to finish. That’s great, right?

We position ourselves from our Adult state when we think about what we really want.

We make choices about what’s really important in our lives:

What makes us really happy and what do we really need in our lives?

What is our higher purpose in the world and how do we want to contribute to a better world?

From our Adult state, we not only look at what ‘must’ be but also what’s in our dreams and desires.

The Adult is in charge.

He takes into consideration our Free Child, what we really need, and thinks carefully before he makes the necessary adjustments. Our Grown up state also considers our values, then evaluates them and makes a choice.


How can you use this wisdom for yourself?


  • My desire and my hope for you is that you already use lists to help you progress in your life. And you also see the lists for what they are.
  • My desire and my hope for you that you feel deep down that you’re OK. Even on days when you don’t achieve what’s on your lists. And on days when things go wrong.
  • My desire and my hope for you that you look lovingly at your “mistakes” and “failures” and can see that they all have contributed to where you are now.
  • My desire and my hope is that you continue to feel from your inner Child what you really need and that you remain true to your own values and standards.
  • My wish and hope is that you can put your own opinionated, stubborn and headstrong inner Adult into your life to give it shape !!!!


My advice for just one day:

See if you can go a day without lists.

A day on which you dwell on what really matters and what you really need.



And tomorrow you just go back to your lists … maybe fewer lists or perhaps other lists?





I wish you a fine, list-free day!



What I find amazing in Transactional Analysis is that, in so many areas of my everyday life, it offers a powerful framework which helps shape my own ‘doing and feeling’.
TA provides a clear framework to work through issues in a solution-oriented way and to have all the options quickly to hand when there is a problem. The idea that we can position ourselves in three ways is always inspiring. We can always try new options using this model, if it appears that what we are doing isn’t working.


Whether it’s about how to deal with the list avalanche or how to deal with requests for help.


Through TA, social workers, health care providers and leaders can properly organize their everyday lives … from an understanding of what they really want and how they really want to make a difference.
TA also provides a clear framework to work in-depth. To really understand how a person is put together and how a person has developed certain patterns.

In this way TA provides an excellent model for coaching or therapeutic work.
Do you want to learn more? Then check out our training offer Transactional Analysis on our website





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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden